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September 24, 2007


pietro vaghi

Good morning, I'm one of your readers. I write from Italy, and first of all I'd like to apologize for my english.
I've read your The Art Question and I've found your blog: thank you for all this work.

Going to the point, I'm writing because I think the topic you are talking about in this post is very important. But I'd like to share some different ways of thinking about it. In fact, coercion is the worst way, as Locke teaches, to let people believe or not believe in something. But I think we have to be more precise.
In my opinion, the question is not 'having' or 'not having' a religion. This because you don't 'have' a religion. You 'believe' in something (or someone). And more, I think we, everyone believe in something: in progress, in truth, in technology, in what we do, in ourselves, in other people. As Max Weber says in Science as a Vocation (1919), we need to believe, because we cannot control and be sure of everything and everyone. So we trust.
Max Weber uses this example: you don't know (I mean, not everyone knows) how a train exactly works. But we use trains and we believe that this morning, this train will led me to that station. I don't need to know how it runs. It's a sort of act of faith (and Weber says for this reason: we are in a worse condition than primitive people who knew exactly how their tools worked).
In this way, I think that faith is something 'natural' for human kind. We trust and 'we need to trust'.
Coming back to our problem, I think the best could be teaching to the guys in (state) schools what people believe. And in this way -as you write- it will be needed more attention to those who have no religion at all, explaining to the children what are their beliefs. In this way it could be easier to teach to the guys the real meaning of tolerance which I think is based on an understanding of the value of every single person with all his beliefs.
For this reason, I don't think acts of worship (of any religion) are "superstitious practice", not more than believing (without having any knowledge about) -for example- that we'll be here tomorrow.

At last: for what concerns freedom in education, I agree that faith as an act should be taught by parents. And also that parents should be free to organize themselves and start school for families who share a common faith and who want to help each others in the education of their children.
In common schools, you should only teach what people believe, possibly paying a little more attention in local traditions and cultures.

By the way -don't take it too seriously- I don't see what's so "bizzar" with this legal requirment: in the UK there is a strong link between the Head of the State, the Queen, and the Head of the Church, again, the Queen. So I think the UK-religious problem - for what I understand - is that in UK you have a state religion. Until this will change, there won't be nothing bizzar if the State imposes an act of worship to the pupils. I don't agree with this situation because I think the two powers should be separated, but, for today, there's nothing "strange": it's almost absurd absurd, but from those premises it's a reasonable conclusion

Thank you for the attention and for your patience with my english

Erwin (NL)

I would like to react to what Pietro said above:

"At last: for what concerns freedom in education, I agree that faith as an act should be taught by parents. And also that parents should be free to organize themselves and start school for families who share a common faith and who want to help each others in the education of their children."

I see a very big problem with this.

Why should a parent have the privilege of "teaching faith as an act"?

Is the principle "religious freedom requires freedom from religion" not also applicable with regard to the parents?

My answer to this last question would be yes. For it is freedom of thought that should be guaranteed and upheld. Not acting upon it. Acting upon it is limited by the rights (in this case religious freedom) of other people. Children are people too. Therefore parents don't have the right to require anything from their children with regard to religion.

This is a direct attack at the freedom of thought and expression.

Children shouldn't be required to act religiously. Not from the government, not from their teachers and least of all from their parents.

Carolyn Ann

Children in England didn't enjoy any option on morning prayer; they probably still don't. (Scotland has a different system; I'm not very familiar with it, so can't comment.)

I can well remember that teacher standing next to me, in order to monitor and make sure I said the prayers, sang the hymns and generally behaved myself.

But I do have to disagree with the idea that parents can't teach their kids their religious beliefs. Not because I have any affection for religion, but because I don't think it the business of anyone what parents teach their children. If religion is important to the parents, they have every right to shape the opinions of the child. Once they're an adult, the right disappears (even if the influence doesn't), but children enjoy a protected status in the regard of what parents can and can't do.

It's also a matter of practicality: can you imagine trying to tell a few religious mothers and fathers what they can and cannot teach their kids? Anyone trying that had better like tar and feathers as an outfit. And have a thick skin! They'd be called every which way to Sunday!

Carolyn Ann

Luigi Vassallo

I don't think that parents shouldn't teach to their children the honesty, the respect for the laws, the tolerance, and other things that make a life more happy and a man more good. Exactly for the same reason I think that parents have to teach them also religious beliefs, and encourage them to practise their faith.. if they're convinced that this is the way for a good life. That's a suggestion for their freedom.


i think children should be teached better at home with strong relegious teaching....children nowdays are lacking those spiritual value when it comes to living after school

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